By Dana Everts-Boehm, Folklife Program Assistant –
As part of the Folklife Program’s ongoing Latino and Immigrant Arts Initiative, I recently attended the Centro Cultural Latino’s first annual Tamale Fest 2015. Held Saturday, June 27 in Memphis, the event took place at Caritas Village and featured a tamale cooking competition between 10 local chefs originally from Mexico and Venezuela. There were also live performances on the main stage, a children’s area and craft booths. The event was attended by Mayor Wharton, who addressed the crowd from the main stage.
Tamale Fest 2015 was a great success. Excellent promotion resulted in high attendance and the crowd was very diverse—many cultures and people of all ages came to taste the tamales and enjoy the performances. Both the tamale cooks and the main stage performers were presented with depth, expertise and panache. The reasonable $5 entrance fee ensured accessibility in a low income neighborhood and entitled the attendee to samples of the ten different kinds of tamales made by the tamale chefs and their teams. Each of the tables in the tamale tent had signage that clearly identified the tamale cook, her place of origin, and the type of tamale made. The tables were beautifully decorated with folk crafts from the cook’s home town. An accompanying booklet in Spanish and English features a delightful collection of “tamale stories” in which the cooks tell in their own words the traditions and recipes for tamale making in their various regions of Mexico and Venezuela.
The main stage, managed by Catrina Guttery and Gloria Lou, was adorned with paintings by Centro Cultural Latino members. Emcee Marcela Pinilla introduced the acts in Spanish and English to the crowd and gave fascinating, educational descriptions of the cultural performances, particularly the Aztec dance troupe Danza Azteca Quetzalcoatl and the Mexican regional folk dance troupe Tierra Mestiza. In addition to the exceptional Latino music and dance performances, other performers included 901 Breakers (break dance), Savannah Long (singer/songwriter), and Mark Edgar Stuart (singer/songwriter).
The success of this inaugural festival was well-deserved and promises to become an annual favorite in the neighborhood and beyond. Hope you can join in the fun next year.